Far from being a waste, these activities save taxpayers money in the long run. Research undertaken on behalf of the Trades Union Congress found that, in the public sector, there are 8,000-16,000 fewer dismissals every year thanks to union reps.

Not being able to fire idiots saves money?

Seems fair enough actually

Nine MPs claimed Amazon Prime subscriptions on their parliamentary expenses, giving them access to the service’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters and Jeremy Clarkson’s The Grand Tour.

Some of them said it was a mistake, or were caught in a “subscription trap” after taking out a free trial, the Daily Mirror reports after new figures were revealed.

No, not the excuses.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, responsible for handling expenses claims, told the paper subscriptions could be claimed but MPs must “justify the subscription is primarily used for parliamentary purposes”.

That. As an MP you’re running two offices which need all the usual office supplies. I’m a little out of date of course but back when everyone used to buy from the world’s worst toupee, the Viking Catalogue. You set up an account and then got your office gubbins delivered. These days I can well imagine an Amazon Prime account being used to do the same.

As long as, you know, it is to deliver the office gubbins. If it’s used to crank one out to Pammie Does Parliament on those lonely nights away from the family then hang them all.

Stationary Bandits

Late last month, famine was declared in two counties of the civil-war torn East African country of South Sudan. With 100,000 people at risk for dying of starvation in that area alone and millions more on the brink of crisis-level food shortages throughout the country, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir promised “unimpeded access” to humanitarian aid organizations working there.

A few days later the South Sudanese government hiked the fee for work permits for foreign aid workers from $100 to $10,000.

Oh puhleeze, do bugger off mateys

But since those joyous days, the British government has not been doing enough to address the cultural needs of communities in the far south-west of Britain, according to the Council of Europe.

The council’s advisory committee monitoring the protection of national minorities has criticised UK ministers for cutting funding for the Cornish language, and suggested they work harder to devolve power and raise the profile of Cornish life.

On the language issue the committee was particularly scathing. “The advisory committee was disconcerted to learn that the UK government decided to cut all funding for the Cornish language,” it said. “The committee strongly regrets a decision which is considered to have a major impact on the continued revitalisation of the language.”

The number of native speakers of Cornish is zero. The language died 250 years ago.

Sure, it’s an interesting version of Celtic, along with Breton, Welsh, Erse, Scots and so on, but it is dead. If people want to try to revive it then good luck to htem. But there’s absolutely no reason why the kitchen hand in Keithly should be taxed to teach Celtic in Kernow.

Dear God, that bad?

The inconvenient truth is that in practice the combination of tax, spending, and redistribution undertaken by governments often makes significant numbers of poor people worse off. As Nora Lustig’s Commitment to Equity project highlights, the net result of taxes and benefits in Armenia, Bolivia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania is that more people are below the $2.50 poverty line than before. In Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, and Tunisia between one-quarter and two-thirds of the poor have less income as a result of the fiscal system.

Honeybuns, there is something you can do

It is a societal moral code turned on its head. Stunned and baffled, I am also one of those who see the people sleeping on the streets and walks on thinking, hoping, that someone is looking after them. That is what our taxes are for, after all. And yet, deep down we all know the structures that once looked after our most vulnerable have buckled. Who, then, is responsible for them?

Sometimes it takes one person to make the difference. Paddy was that person for me. He and his scraggy, kind old dog Gerard were based every evening at Leicester Square tube (exit 1), and for the past two years we met every week on my way home from choir. They were a familiar sight to all the locals, and during our conversations people would stop to pass the time of day. Paddy loved the fact that I sing at St Martin-in-the-Fields, and like clockwork would brush off my concerns, instead asking with a twinkle in his eye: “But did you sing well tonight?”

When I learned of his death from his son, I realised I couldn’t keep walking by. Modern society let Paddy down, and he died of cold on the streets. His son Patrick, now an orphan, in some kind of ugly twist of tradition, has inherited his father’s pitch, his dog, his tent … his homelessness.

My fury seeped rapidly into hopelessness and helplessness. There are so many battles to fight right now. It’s hard to know what to do as a citizen that will make a difference. And yet, there are ways to help, and foremost is arming ourselves with information. We need to know what we can do, who we can turn to, what actually helps.

And we need to turn to each other. Which is how, with the help and support of friends, I was able to channel my grief into something positive: an event called Sod This (for a laugh)!, to raise awareness and a good bit of money for two charities working to combat rough sleeping.

That something being taking a rough sleeper into your home and setting them on the road to reintegration with society. Because with a home address then you can start to find work and that’s how the process works.

And before you ask yes, yes I have. As should you if this is indeed something that you care about.

So, get on with it woman, just get on with it.

This ain’t nothing new Honey

According to The Guardian, she told Australian Broadcasting Corporation she was questioned by border agents in a room full of people for two hours. She said that the experience left her so harrowed that she felt like she had been physically assaulted. She has even suggested that she might never return to the US after the incident.
“I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” Fox was quoted as saying. “I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby, and I’m 70 years old.”
According to The Guardian, the author blamed US President’s proposed travel ban as the reason for the “aggressive questioning” by the border police. She said despite having travelled to America 116 times before without incident, she was questioned over her visa. She was eventually granted access.

Bugger all to do with Trump. US Border people at airports are the rudest most shitty people I’ve ever dealt with. No, really, I went in and out of Russia for years and the US is worse.

The examples, aren’t they amazing?

The terrible poverty of modern England:

Melissa, a 20-year-old student, has watched her family struggle to pay the bills since she was at primary school. Ten years ago her mum, Elizabeth, slipped a disc, so badly that sometimes she can’t get out of bed. And, just like that, she had to give up her job as a cafe manager.

A few years later, Elizabeth developed a heart problem: her heart would stop for seven seconds, causing her to faint. “She’d often hit her head,” Melissa explains. For long periods, there was no wage at all coming in: Melissa’s stepdad had a heart attack during her GCSEs, and her father had a brain injury.

A family where all the adults are on the sick lives a financially precarious life?

The terrors of modern neoliberalism, eh?

There’s another little joy in this too:

There are now 19 million people in this country living below the minimum income standard (an income required for what the wider public view as “socially acceptable” living standards), according to figures released by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) this month. Around 8 million of them could be classed as Theresa May’s “just about managing” families: those who can, say, afford to put food on the table and clothe their children but are plagued by financial insecurity. The other 11 million live far below the minimum income standard and are, the JRF warns, “at high risk of falling into severe poverty”.

We’ve no back calculation of these numbers. We don’t know how many were, by this standard, so imperilled in 2000, 1980, even 1880. We thus cannot actually tell whether things are getting better or not.

Sounds about right

Any future nationalist government of Scotland would face Greek-style austerity cuts of about £19 billion in the event of a “Scexit”, a leading economic forecaster has warned as speculation grows that the country will face a second independence referendum.

A new analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predicts that the gap between what Scotland raises in taxes and spends on public services will rise to an “unsustainable” 9.4% of GDP in 2017-18.

And of course if the demented porridge wogs think that’s worth it then we should not stand in the way of their leaving.

For, of course, we’re the people pickling up that bill at present….

Worse, perhaps they could turn out to be waaacists

Streets should no longer be named after local heroes because they might one day be named as paedophiles, according to official guidance.

Councils have been told that places should not be named after individuals – including fallen soldiers – in case they are later linked to “inappropriate activities”.

It comes after hundreds of streets, footpaths and plaques named after Jimmy Savile had to be altered when the star was exposed as a child abuser.

Hmm, so what do we call that bit of London where the tailors hang out now?

Doesn’t this just show why Pruitt is right?

Employees of the Environmental Protection Agency have been calling their senators to urge them to vote on Friday against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s contentious nominee to run the agency, a remarkable display of activism and defiance that presages turbulent times ahead for the E.P.A.

Many of the scientists, environmental lawyers and policy experts who work in E.P.A. offices around the country say the calls are a last resort for workers who fear a nominee selected to run an agency he has made a career out of fighting — by a president who has vowed to “get rid of” it.

“Mr. Pruitt’s background speaks for itself, and it comes on top of what the president wants to do to E.P.A.,” said John O’Grady, a biochemist at the agency since the first Bush administration and president of the union representing the E.P.A.’s 15,000 employees nationwide.

Yes, but he’s the President, duly elected, and you’re the drone to do his bidding….

There’s a reason for this you know

Donald Trump moved on Tuesday to expunge rules aimed at forcing oil companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments in order to secure lucrative mining and drilling rights.

“Trump has given an astonishing gift to the American oil lobby. Oil, gas and mining companies listed across the EU, including Russian companies, have already disclosed $150bn of payments in resource-rich countries, with no ill effects. This makes a mockery of claims by US oil companies such as Exxon that greater transparency would damage companies’ competitiveness. If the European companies can do it, you have to ask – what are US companies trying to hide?” said Zorka Milin, senior legal adviser at the advocacy group Global Witness.

Isn’t it Angola that bans companies from revealing how much they pay Angola?

What a fun, fun, argument

Britons may have to work longer if immigration is cut in the wake of Brexit, according to a warning from the Government’s pension adviser.

John Cridland, a former CBI director reviewing the state pension age for the Government, said the “Brexit Factor” had made the future of the state pension uncertain.

The Government’s decision on pension changes, due in May, will be informed by Mr Cridland’s report to be published one month earlier.

Probably a true one too. Given the low rate at which we indigenes reproduce there aren’t all that many young people to pay for the old. So, it’s necessary to import more younger and more fertile in order to pay for the old.

Or, pay the old less or for a shorter period of time.

But the real point here is that governments have lied for the past century and more. The way they set up the pensions system was not sustainable, that’s exactly what we’re being told here.

Points make prizes

And points to the first person to see someone not getting this:

An investigation into the emergency closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh built under private finance initiative arrangements has revealed a series of other potentially fatal safety defects at PFI schools.

Prof John Cole, a construction industry expert, said brick walls at four other schools in Scotland fell down in high winds in very similar circumstances to the collapse of an external wall at Oxgangs primary school in Edinburgh in January 2016.

They didn’t put the right ties in between the walls, OK.

In Glasgow, a high wall fell down on to a roof during extremely high winds at Lourdes primary school, which was not built using PFI. Inspections revealed that five other walls were faulty, again because not enough wall ties were used.

It is by no means unique to PFI projects.

Cole said the faults were not down to the private financing of the schools but the failure of the PFI contractors to do the correct quality checks.

The points go to the first person to spot an anguished screed claiming that this is all due to private financing rather than general incompetence of builders.

And do note what does happen with a PFI contract. Those managers who hired the builders lose millions upon millions as a result of not monitoring the builders properly. Will rather concentrate the minds of the next lot, no?

Actually, there are more points on offer for whoever has the patience of knowledge to look at that Glasgow, non-PFI one. Who is going to lose money there?

No, this isn’t the reason

Ruth Davidson yesterday told farming leaders it would be “foolhardy” to give MSPs the power to create an entirely separate Scottish replacement for the EU’s controversial Common Agricultural Policy after Brexit.

The Scottish Tory leader said she expected “an almighty political row” over the coming months over whether Westminster or Holyrood runs agriculture after powers are repatriated from Brussels.

She argued it would be wrong to create barriers within the UK domestic market – the destination of 85 per cent of Scotland’s ‘agri-exports’ – by having different systems on both sides of the Border.

If Scotland has a different policy then Scotland will have to pay for it. If it’s a British policy then maybe Britain as a whole will pay for it, to the benefit of the Scots.

Idiot damn stupidity

No doubt, unless it was a coded message to his own four children, David Mowat, the junior health minister, meant well last week when he floated a proposal that “we start thinking as a society about how we deal with the care of our own parents”.

Around six months into the job, it has occurred to the primary care minister, he told the communities and local government committee, that a less formal set-up might work wonders. “One thing that has always struck me as I have been doing this role,” he said, “is that nobody ever questions the fact that we look after our children. That is obvious and nobody ever says that is a caring responsibility; it is just what you do.”

Perhaps he has yet to learn about the work, not only of social services and family courts, but of the often unfairly maligned Child Support Agency, created precisely because of the hundreds of thousands of parents, from all kinds of backgrounds, who reject their obligations. In those cases, the state can prove, dismaying though this is to accept, more responsible than an absent parent.

It doesn’t seem to occur to an Observer columnist that the CSA is the arm of the State which insists that people do meet their responsibilities to their children.

The new government wheeze to avoid its obligations is to suggest that children bear the burden, not the state

Well, yes, why not?

Plod’s latest

A police force carried out a controlled explosion on a “suspicious” car outside a station, not realising its own officers had parked it there.
A bomb squad was called after concerns about an unattended Vauxhall Corsa at Workington police station, Cumbria.
Roads around the building, in Hall Brow, were sealed off and an explosion carried out at 08:00 GMT.
The force blamed “an internal communications error” and apologised to the owner.
Cumbria Police said other officers on duty were not aware colleagues had parked the car outside the station after helping its owner, who had taken ill.

And then we get to the problem:

“The constabulary will review this incident and will take on board any learning.”


What’s wrong with “Yes, you’re right, we fucked up, we’ll try not to do that again”?